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As NC ages, the red-blue divide could deepen

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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper as guest speaker at the Durham Center for Senior Life in Durham, North Carolina, Thursday, September 1, 2022

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper as guest speaker at the Durham Center for Senior Life in Durham, North Carolina, Thursday, September 1, 2022

With over 100,000 North Carolinians turning 65 each year, North Carolina is aging.

“The elderly will grow faster than all other age groups,” said Michael Klein, a North Carolina demographer. more people over the age of 65 than

This often-overlooked population surge can have implications for state politics. Older white voters tend to support the Republican Party, so does North Carolina’s demographic greyness mean it’s politically in the red?

A recent report by WFAE Radio questioned whether the rising mostly white retiree population in Brunswick and other coastal counties is one reason Democrats are struggling to win statewide. was investigated. The report quoted an adviser to Republican Ted Budd, who said it was partly due to his success in November’s U.S. Senate election “wherever there are retirees.”

An influx of retirees has boosted Republican support in some counties, but Klein said an increase in seniors in counties that support Democrats could offset that trend.

Chris Cooper, a professor of political science at Western Carolina University who studies state voting patterns, said more retirees won’t change the balance of red and blue voters in the state. Instead, he said the divide will deepen as seniors moving into the states sort themselves into places that fit their politics.

“What this means is that migration growth leads to increased geographic calcification, so the blues[counties]get bluer, the reds get redder, and the states stay pretty purple,” he says. said.

Cooper also said, “It’s not true that older people vote overwhelmingly Republican.” Older black voters generally vote Democratic, and even older white voters vary. He pointed to Buncombe County, a popular destination for retirees and home to the Democratic Party. is in no danger of taking over Buncombe County politics any time soon.”

Asher Hildebrand, associate professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and former chief of staff to Democratic Rep. agreed that it is being offset by the more progressive voters of But he said the growing number of conservative voters in counties and neighborhoods bordering urban counties popular with retirees is having a political impact. Complicating what we expected to see a relentless, city-driven transition to blue states.

“Demographics may be fate, but they are moving at a much slower pace than many of us expected and expected. It’s because of the influx of white, older, and Republican voters in the areas where we’re located,” he said.

If an aging population doesn’t immediately change the state’s political character, then the legislative priorities should change. The Republican-led Congress needs to go beyond tax cuts and invest more in what seniors need in areas like housing, health care, transportation, recreation, and community ties.

Heather Burkhardt, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition on Aging, said North Carolina needs to accommodate its growing elderly population by adopting and funding plans similar to California’s Elderly Master Plan. told me that there is

“It’s too late for us to start paying attention to this,” she said. Staring into our faces, it’s time for us to do something.”

It’s unclear whether North Carolina will turn red or blue as its population grows, but it’s clearly turning gray. States must overcome political differences and address challenges faced by aging Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.

Associate Opinion Editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-829-4512,

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